Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not for the claustrophobic!

This is how Dave spends about 15 minutes each day for his radiation. That 'Spiderman' looking mask is actually screwed into the table and is very tight on his face. It is made of hard plastic. They say that some people have to be tranquilized... While Dave's radiation therapists were explaining the procedure, I was focused on Dave screwed into the table and didn't hear much they said... In fact, I felt like I shouldn't be there as it was making Dave have to lie there longer. But Dave didn't seem to mind!
He is my hero!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good week overall

I have been able to swallow and am getting fairly adept at creating smoothies with Ensure, yogurts, bananas, and Jevity - a supercharged supplement supplied for folks like me that need to keep on the weight.  Since being diagnosed back in mid-October, I've gone from about 174 lbs. down to a low of 154 and back up to 160 as of today.  The MDs are leaning on me to keep the weight stable.  I'm adjusting to having to eat and drink food and fluids that have essentially no flavor, or bad flavor.  Eating has become a  required body function and I don't look forward to it any more than I do going to the bathroom.  Amazing - how we in this country put such emphasis on that one basic function and have turned it into another "pleasure zone" that we indulge in rather than a gift that we are privileged to enjoy.  Not unlike our obsession with sexual pleasure, I think.

I'm heading into the "dog days" of treatment soon.  Down one round of chemo and 10   radiation treatments, my throat is starting to smart some and my mouth is constantly dry.   I'm told that the swallowing may become extremely difficult soon and that I will be using my PEG tube more.  Throat pain should also move me into pain management medications in the not too distant future.  I do take it one day at a time, but I'm also trying to stay realistic with what lies ahead.

I've had about 5 or 6 pretty good days,  The kids were here on Christmas day and good vibes were in abundance.  They gave me an ipod nano. I may be the only musician in town that has not had one.  Showing my age I guess.  Deanna and I went "gift light" this season.  We both feel so blessed with what possessions we already have and have enjoyed being able to help some of our church missions take on poverty and spiritual emptiness in less fortunate parts of the world. 

I attended Country Gospel service this Saturday and was almost overwhelmed with the kindness and compassion directed my way.  I love those folks in our little Country Church within the North Coast community of church venues.  I'm intentionally thankful and prayerful as often as possible.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kind Loving Neighbors and Friends, Adios taste buds.

I used to sing a  Jim Croce song, "Time",  back in the 70's that had a lyric, "and when you're down nobody gives a damn anyway."  I'm pretty sure that I really believed it to be a folksy universal truth back then.   I'm grateful that at this moment in my life I have very few personal experiences that can validate that.  Especially yesterday afternoon when our neighbors from across the street came by and prayed for me with genuine compassion, love, and faith that surely God is in this with us.  After they left I wept a bit - not, I think, because of my present circumstance.  It was just one of those God moments.  Love usually shows up in wet eyes for me.

I "thought" that I might try eating something solid.  Pollo Loco chicken sounded good, so Deanna stopped by a place here in Oceanside that has a similar menu.  It smelled good on the way home and I was actually looking forward to giving it a taste.  I opened the containers, spooned out some delicious smelling beans and rice, then shredded a bit of chicken breast and plopped it all onto a handmade tortilla.  Tasted unlike anything I've ever put into my a bad, very bad way...UGHH!

My taste buds are now officially seriously confused and out of commission.  Thank God that my Radiation Oncologist requested a PEG tube before treatment began.   I'll be getting my nourishment through said tube from now forward...and probably never eat Pollo Loco food again.  I'm told that the buds will gradually be back in working condition again after my last treatment.  Could take several weeks to a couple months.

Deanna has been wonderful.  She gives way more than "a damn"...she pretty much gives it all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

IV Fluids needed

Well Dave's nausea didn't get any better and he was not able to eat anything and could only take in about 12 oz of fluids per day. So I made a call today to the on-call Dr. and she had us come to see her after his radiation treatment today. (Yes Sunday radiation because of the holidays coming up). He ended up getting 2 bags of IV fluids and he is feeling a bit better. The dizziness and weakness have improved. Still not eating but hopefully that will come soon.

His sense of smell is stronger than Shelby's (our dog) and most food smells make him nauseous... so I'm not cooking much which I didn't do much of anyway. Those who know us, know that Dave has done most of the cooking and I was ready to take over that task but will have to wait until he can stomach the smell..... Hmmm maybe it's my cooking :)

Praying that tomorrow is a better day for Dave

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nausea has set in

Day 1 & 2 after chemo were pretty good for Dave but the nausea set in on Wednesday afternoon. He does not have an appetite.. in fact the smell of food makes him nauseous. From what I've learned this may last a few days but everyone is different. I want to 'fix' it but know I cannot which is hard. I'm doing a lot of praying.

Dave is also very tired but he is able to sleep.

Thanks for your continued prayers

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First radiation and chemo

Dave had his first chemo and radiation yesterday and everything went smoothly. No nausea or vomiting. I guess the drugs that they give him for the nausea REALLY work! He had muscle soreness in the back (kidney area mainly) and we contributed part of this to the all the IV fluids they gave him before and after the chemo. He was up a few times last night with indigestion and again with a headache but both went away. Other than that he is doing a lot better than we had anticipated. Praise God!

While I was sitting in the radiation waiting room while he was getting his radiation treatment, a loud bell was rung. I looked up and there was a woman ringing it with her doctor, nurses and staff around her. After the ringing stopped, there were hugs all around her. It was her LAST radiation treatment! Needless to say, I was crying!

Only 32 more treatments to go until I can give Dave that celebratory HUG! As Dave would say: Onward and forward!

Thanks for your continued prayers and support!

Friday, December 11, 2009

PEG tube inserted...

Went down to the Thornton hospital Tuesday to have the PEG tube inserted into my stomach.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, the tube is precautionary at this time just in case I am unable to eat later in the treatment process.  More Vicodin for the pain until today; I'm taking Tylenol now and it seems to do the trick just fine.

One somewhat surreal conversation occurred when the floor Dr. came by on Wednesday to check my condition.  He asked me if I was feeling okay because I seemed to be somewhat "flat" and "depressed."  I wasn't sure if he was punking me or what.  The facts that I was taking an opiate to hold stomach spasms in check, was facing 6 weeks of radiation and chemo to treat throat cancer, and hadn't eaten in over 36 hours evidently kept me from displaying my usual ebulliant personality.  Fortunately I was too out of it to reply with anything better than, "really...hmm."

Radiation and Chemo start this Tuesday morning and will continue through January.  Onward and Upward!  God is right here with us and the prayers of many good folks are our ballast.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The eye of the storm

I'm mostly recovered from the tonsillectomy and have 6 weeks of radiation and chemo treatments ahead.  I'm feeling well currently and will savor the next few days, one day at time, trying not to think too much about what lies ahead.

It was great to be back singing worship tonight with with over 100 people and the worship team.  Lots of love and compassion in our little country church in the North Coast community. 

This Tuesday I will have a procedure to install the PEG tube.  I may not need to use it, but it's best to get it done now - the radiation treatments can cause the throat to to become too sore for swallowing after the third or fourth week.    We were under the impression that I would be receiving my first round of chemo and radiation this Wednesday.  It didn't work out that way; the radiation is scheduled for next Tuesday.  We haven't had confirmation from the chemo oncology department yet, but have been told that Tuesday should also include chemo.  Deanna has been my case manager and is discovering that coordinating treatments between surgeons, radiology, chemo therapy, insurance departments...etc. requires persistence and tenacity.  I thank God for her.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The spiritual aspect

My throat has recovered nicely from the tonsillectomy/biopsy procedures.   I can now eat just about whatever I want and I'm trying to put back the weight I lost in preparation for the upcoming radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Today I meet with the chemo oncologist, then tomorrow I have a pet scan.  That should just about do it for the pre-treatment consults and procedures.  I'll be scheduled to have a PEG Tube inserted into my stomach; in case I become unable to swallow as the treatments progress, then I'll start the chemo/rad procedure in about 10 days - 6.5 weeks of daily radiation with 3 chemo shots interspersed.

I expect that there will be some difficult days ahead; I've been told that my throat will become very dry and I could find it so difficult to swallow I'll need to get nourishment directly fron the PEG tube.  Side effects from the chemo vary between patients - maybe nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, etc.

The spiritual aspects so far have been incredibly consistent with what I have read in the Bible and heard through the past many years from other "believers" who have gone through similar experiences.  First of all prayer is without any doubt the most powerful supernatural "medicine" God has to offer.  I know that there are scores of believers praying daily for Deanna and I, and even though it is hard to explain, I feel and see the results.  The "peace beyond understanding" that scripture speaks of is as real as rain for us right now.  I'll let you know if and when that changes as the treatments progress.

It has been twenty some years ago since I surrendered my will and life to God.  I remember vividly how I responded to worldly challenges prior to that surrender...with fear, anger, self-pity, lustfulness, judgmentalism, etc.  I am thankful that those "cancers of the spirit" no longer hold me captive.  Don't misunderstand me on this - I am tempted daily by those same "demons", but at least for now they are just old shadows that briefly pass over me and then dissappear as I call on the light of Jesus to protect me.

Onward and forward..."Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him" Job 13:15

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Radiation & chemo- therapy to start in about 3 weeks

Deanna and I went down to the Moore's cancer center this morning and spoke with Dr. Loren Mell  regarding the specifics of his proposal for radiation therapy.  He is the Director of the radiation oncology department for UCSD medical center.

What we learned was that there actually are some "choices" to ponder when deciding exactly the extent and types of treatment to consider.  Factored into the choices were my desire to keep my voice to the extent possible, and what Dr. Mell considered as the best case scenario for a complete recovery and cancer free future.  I could get a smaller dose of radiation and have a better chance of saving my voice, but an increased chance of not getting all of the cancer.  Also, I could forego chemo treatments and just receive radiation with the same chance of the cancer coming back.

Best case long range scenario (and the prognosis is very good) is go with the combination of suggested chemo/radio therapy for 6 weeks daily - with weekends off.  It is possible, maybe even likely, that this treatment could effect my voice quality.  Not necessarily "for sure", but the odds lean toward the probability.  It is also likely that the cancer would be completely eradicated. 

My next step will be to visit radiology again for a PET scan, then to UCSD chemotherapy oncologist,
Dr. Tony Reid Tony Reid. He will decide the specific drug and dose for the chemo.

It appears that my first radio/chemo treament will be about 3 weeks from today.  So I'm hoping to eat good while I can still swallow...Keep prayin'!

Friday, November 13, 2009

"You have cancer"

Around mid-August I noiced that one of my lymph nodes had become slightly swollen. After a few weeks, when it obviously was not going to shrink on it's own, Deanna convinced me  that I should go to my GP, Dr. Robert Barron  and have him take a look at it.  He gave me a 10 day prescription for a strong antibiotic thinking that it could be a bacterial infection.  The lump didn't shrink, so he told me that I should see an ENT specialist at UCSD.

The ENT, Terence Davidson , took some biopsy samples from the swollen node then immediately sent them to the lab for analysis.  About 20 minutes later he  told me the results were in and that the node was cancerous and most likely started in my swollen right tonsil.  He told me that it appeared to be early, small, and  treatable.  I was then scheduled for a CT scan, and then surgery to remove my tonsils and and undergo a full laryngoscopy.

The tonsillechtomy and subsequent recovery has been about par for the course -  from what I've gleaned from the internet.  About 2 days of "wow, that wasn't so bad" to 5 days of "is it time to take my vicodin yet", then slow steady progress toward being able to swallow some solid food.

Following the surgery I was told that my right tonsil was the "primary" cancer site - where it started.  The swollen lymph node is also cancerous  and is described as the "secondary" site.  Dr. Davidson told me that he would recommend  radio and chemotherapy for the remaining cancer in my neck.  He referred my charts to the UCSD "tumor board"  for a treatment recommendation   A couple of days later the board reviewed my charts and confirmed Dr. Davidson's recommendation of radio/chemo.

I have an appointment with the UCSD oncologist, Dr. Loren Mell   Nov. 17th.  I'm hopefull that I will get some idea about what the next couple of months will be like.